Utilization of Herbal Medicine among Children Under 5 Years of Age in Tharaka Nithi County, Kenya
Nzuki, David Mwikya
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The use of herbal medicine is on the rise globally, especially in developed countries. Indeed, over 80% of the populations in developing countries depend on herbal medicine. In Kenya herbal medicine is widely used, with 70% of the population having been reported to be dependent on it for primary health care. The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that growing use of traditional medicine, both in developed and developing nations, has been mirrored by an increasing number of reports of adverse effects and deaths. The indications are that there is increased child mortality due to herbal medicine use and concomitant use of herbal medicine and convectional medicine among under-five years of age. This study examined the utilization of herbal medicine among under-five years of age in Maara division, Tharaka Nithi County. The study was descriptive cross sectional in design and used structured interviews, questionnaires, and Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) Guide as instruments for collecting both quantitative and qualitative data. The study was located in Mwimbi Division in Tharaka Nithi County, an area covering 1570 square km with a population of 64,380 people. The instruments were pretested at Muthambi division in Tharaka Nithi County. A sample of 350 parents and guardians of under-five years of age children from five locations across the division were used for the study. In addition, 10 conventional health care practitioners were sampled through purposive sample. Data was analyzed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 17.0 software. Percentages, frequencies, cross tabulations, and pie charts were used to present the data. Chi-square test of independence was applied to identify the relationship between the basic socio-demographic characteristics and use of herbal medicine, with the level of significance at 0.05. The study revealed that herbal medicine use among under five years children is high (89.4%) in the county. Age of under-five children, education level, occupation, monthly income and location of residence of caregivers had significant relationship with the use of herbal medicine. The study revealed that herbal medicine were mostly used in the treatment of gastrointestinal diseases (26.2%), respiratory disorder (19.2%), skin diseases/trauma (16.4%) and Malaria (10.9%), the study also found that there is a strong belief in the potency of herbal medicine making its role in health care delivery significant. The most commonly used herbs were Erythrina abyssinica (35.1%) and Amaranthus hybridus (32.9%). Concomitant use of herbal medicines with conventional medication was reported by 50.2%of herbal users. Apart from treating illnesses, the need for supplement, growth improvement, and appetite improvement were other conditions contributing to the use of herbal medicines. Often, 70.2% of parents/guardians believed that since herbal medicines and supplements are promoted as natural, they are safe and less likely to cause side effects than prescription medication. The study recommends that the ministry of health should ensure that correct information on dangers of concomitant use of herbs with conventional medicine is disseminated to general public. Finally, the ministry of environmental and natural resources should ensure conservation of the very popular herbs for future generations.